Monday, August 28, 2017

The Vegetarian who ate Organic Chicken

Sunflower was a vegetarian who ate organic chicken. She did not see any problem with this obvious contradiction, but her roommate, Jennifer, did: “But Susan, you can’t call yourself a vegetarian if you eat meat!”

Sunflower ignored Jennifer and continued slicing into a thigh.

“Oh, right,” Jennifer rolled her eyes when she realized her mistake, “Sunflower?”

Susan had changed her name to Sunflower in recent months and Jennifer was not yet accustomed to the switch.  They had been life-long friends  or age-old foes depending on the season  and it's no easy feat for anyone, no matter how how well-meaning or open-minded, to weed out deeply ingrained biases or readjust deterministic linguistic habits.  

It was therefore understandable that Jennifer would have trouble keeping Susan's new name straight. 

Susan did not see it that way. 

Though a self-identified empath with an open third eye and a dogeared copy of The Celestine Prophesy on her nightstand, Susan was not, in practice, sensitive to the struggles of another or to viewpoints she herself did not share. 

As an unsympathetic empath, then, Susan tended to be openly hostile towards anyone who did not refer to her as Sunflower, even if the "ignorant" person genuinely did not know she had changed her name.

It would appear in the current context, however, that Susan was foregoing her usual hostility in exchange for another tried and true tactic of those with a superiority complex who can't handle having their illusions questioned or opinions challenged: Pretend the "offending" person does not exist.

Susan, though, having never really possessed the courage of her convictions, could not keep up the pretense for long. The second Jennifer addressed her in the desired way, she (Susan) immediately slammed down the cleaver she'd been using to delicately slice the chicken, assumed a tight smile, took a deep breath and cheerfully exclaimed, "Jen! I didn't see you come in! Did you say something?"

But of course Susan knew perfectly well what Jennifer had said and before Jennifer could repeat herself, the cheerfulness drained from Susan's voice and she snapped, “It’s organic!” as if the word “organic” granted meat a pardon from not being a vegetable.

“And another thing!", Sunflower continued, quickly working herself up into a rant, "I don’t want YOU or ANY of your friends touching my organic chicken! If you touch any of my stuff I’ll call the police!”

Susan (or Sunflower) appeared to be wilting under the strain of trying to be something she was not. But rather than consider the roots of her hypocrisy or give Jennifer a chance to speak, Sunflower angrily lit one of her organic cigarettes and with a dramatic swoosh of her bohemian skirt, stormed out of the kitchen, bumping into Judith along the way. “Judith!" she screamed, "you’re always in the way!!”

Judith was an antique armoire Sunflower had found at a flea market.

Sunflower named all her material possessions. Every person, object and thing in the universe, inorganic, organic or otherwise, was on its own spiritual path to enlightenment, she claimed, and deserved a name that captured its true essence. As for Sunflower and her chosen rechristening, like most ideologically-driven people, she did not heed her own rhetoric and no more resembled a sunny flower than she did a vegetarian or a non-smoker.

In view of this most recent manifestation of Sunflower's aggression and volatility, Jennifer realized that her "friend" might truly be dangerous and for the sake of safety, decided to do as Sunflower demanded and not touch anything that belonged to the crazy woman. Jennifer further decided then and there that she would keep her distance until she could find her own apartment.

Still, it's difficult to find your own apartment when there is a shortage of affordable housing.  It's also difficult to keep one's distance when living in the same space, and as the weeks passed and the stress of trying to remain civil to an uncivil person wore on, Jennifer’s resentment towards Sunflower grew. 

It grew each time she opened the fridge and noted the partially-picked at, soon to start rotting carcass of Sunflower's organic chicken. It grew every time she eyed Sunflower’s unwashed dishes sitting by the sink, or smelled the stench of organic cigarette butts left smoldering in ashtrays all over the house. It grew with each new layer of Judith’s accumulating dust and the resulting sneezing fit Jennifer invariably launched into every time she walked by the armoire. But it grew the strongest whenever she overheard Sunflower misuse the word "organic".

Eventually, Jennifer's simmering resentment intensified to such a degree that she could stand it no longer. In a cleaning frenzy, she attacked the kitchen with a mop, Pine-Sol and dish soap. She threw the chicken carcass and its container into a trash bag, noting that it wasn’t even organic. It was an ordinary rotisserie bird bought on sale at the independent supermarket.

Sunflower was ENRAGED when she later discovered what Jennifer had done and promptly called 911.

“I need to report a crime!” she shrilled into the phone, but stopped mid-sentence when she noticed Judith standing there, gleaming and dust-free.

Hyperventilating, still with the phone to her ear, she yelled at Jennifer in disbelief, ”What did you DO TO JUDITH?? YOU ASSAULTED her!! How DARE you!!!”

The police arrived shortly thereafter. They had received a call about an altercation involving a housecleaning incident, a chicken, a sunflower, two victims named Judith and Jennifer, and one assailant wielding a sawed-off broomstick.

In the mayhem and confusion that ensued, Sunflower, whose name as it turned out had not been legally changed, was taken away in handcuffs for later psychiatric evaluation.  Jennifer was checked over for any injuries and though shaken was deemed fine. She said she was just happy she wouldn't have to live with Susan any more and did not want to pursue criminal charges.

Judith was not available for comment.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Her Battered Mind

Somewhere in the dark recesses of her battered mind,
Was a lost fleck of ego she thought she'd never find.
She gave up the search and her outlook grew bleak;
The storm in her head reached a dangerous peak.

She walked around buried alive from within,
Choking on air, nails clawing under skin.
She bore the torture but wanted it to cease,
She craved some sort of eternal release.

A corpse inside a breathing body she would soon be,
If she didn't put a permanent end to her misery.
But before she could take matters into her own hands,
She heard a voice giving outrageous commands.

It told her to change her thinking and give it a rest,
But with gun in hand, she cried she couldn't endure one more test.
But its calm persistence made her ask why in a tone quiet and flat,
And it replied because she was worth it, as simple as that.

She can't say how or whence the voice came,
Whether ego, delusion, or God, it's all just the same.
But she knows to this day when her mood darkens the light,
There's a spark living in her, waiting and ready to ignite.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Escape from a Residential School

Wanda secretly planned a summer trip home. It was a trip she and her family had been promised 3 years beforehand when she was taken from her village. All the children, in fact, were taken from the village and brought to St. Michael's Indian Residential School to live. There they would be educated in the Anglo-Saxon and Christian traditions.

They were told it was for the good of their people. Through religious indoctrination of their young, the savages would be assimilated into civilized society and their heathen souls redeemed. Youngsters were thus plunged into an ironically savage world of government sanctioned abductions and punitively run religious boarding schools.

Emily Carr, Gitwangak (1912), Oil on Canvas

Such traumatic circumstances wore down most of the children. Wanda, however, was not easily broken. She was beautiful, the daughter of a Haida princess and warrior chief, and drew great strength from knowing her heritage. This did not sit well with the staff. The Sisters of St. Michael’s and their priest, Father Fredrick, did all they could, in the name of Jesus Christ, to break the child.

The things they did to break her would have made hardened men – men under the very shield of a patriarchal God, beg for mercy and pledge allegiance to the Enemy. 

But no matter what they did, her spirit would not be broken. 

The Guardians

She seemed protected by an invisible shield and the guardian eagles of her ancient ancestors who flew overhead. They left warning feathers as evidence of their presence -- witnesses to the atrocities inflicted under the guise of a manmade god.

Under such tutelage, Wanda's soul was emboldened to stand strong and resolute no matter what was done to her. She continued to whisper in her native language to the other students. When the Sisters heard, they stabbed her tongue with knitting needles as punishment for speaking Satan's words. Wanda grew accustomed to such tortuous lessons and dealt with the beatings, starvation, solitary confinement and sexual assaults as the stoics taught, transforming adversity into mental triumph and spiritual strength.

She was sure if her people found out what was really happening at St. Michael's, she and the other children would be rescued. It was this belief that fueled Wanda's resolve to escape during the warm summer months in search of help. 

She told the other children she'd soon be back for them. And true to her word, Wanda was indeed returned to the children. She was returned by the Sisters who had caught her trying to leave in the middle of the night. They tortured her until the wee morning hours and intended to use her barely alive body as an example for the rest of the children. 

There is no greater restraint on a renegade spirit than fear.

But under the shield of Wanda's invisible guardians, she felt no pain and endured the last hours of her incarnation without so much as a whimper, until her spirit was finally delivered home.

With her soul safely back in the womb of creation, the men and women of St. Michael's had to make due with the girl's lifeless body. They took her prepubescent corpse, naked and bruised, and hung it by a rope from the grand oak overlooking the school. The rest of the terrorized students were assembled in front of the body as it swayed along with a mighty wind in the hot early sun. 

A murder of crows swirled overhead as eagles stood guard.

Father Fredrick stood before the grand oak and began his hellfire and brimstone sermon. But as his preaching gained a terrible momentum and his voice shrilled, rather than instill abject fear in the children, they were comforted with a great calm. And there in front of their innocent eyes, a pair of almighty eagles descended from on high, converging with talons drawn on Father Fredrick's jugular.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Leftovers: Lesser Cousins of a Better Creed

The leftovers waited patiently,
In the fridge for their turn.
They did not harbor resentment,
Nor was their banishment of concern.

Except Brussels who saw the writing on the wall;
They knew they'd be rejected and started to pout,
"Through no fault of our own we stink,
Like rotten eggs and old sauerkraut!"

Potatoes tried to console them with sage advice:
Sure, they were the lesser cousins of a better creed,
But rest assured, ALL the leftovers would be
Sought after by gluttony and greed.

The vegetables and their sauces,
Gravy and sausage dressing too,
Congealed under plastic wrap,
Between the mayo jar and last week's stew.

Cranberries, yams and turkey,
Cooled in the old Frigidaire.
The whipping cream and pumpkin pie,
Sat idly by without a care.

But as the leftovers leisurely gossiped
In the crisp Freon atmosphere,
Brussels foresaw a hopeless destiny:
"We're never getting out of here!"

The sprouts had been overcooked,
And gave off their rancid smell.
They would be the only leftover
The gluttons would repel.

The other leftovers humored Brussels,
While furtively rolling their esculent eyes.
Then just as predicted they heard muffled voices,
"You get the turkey, I'll get the pies!"

They could hear clanging glass,
And the fridge door creaking.
With a flood of light the gluttons had arrived,
Whispering and sneaking.

Leftovers were piled onto plates,
And heated in the microwave.
But not the Brussels sprouts 
Condemned to rot in their frigid grave.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Predatory Female

The lovestruck fool goes where Seduction calls –
Tasty game for The One who enthralls.
Easy prey for the necrotic heart,
Of a predatory feline acting a part.

He's a squirrel lured to nest on the open sea,
Love is a sleek fin that encircles hungrily.
But the squirrel isn't made to endure the ocean's rhythm and roar,
He must be enticed to leave the safety of land and shore.

Pulled by the temptation of undulating tides,
His flesh prickles with wanting as Love collides.
The squirrel swoons at the glint of a sharp tooth,
Love continues her courtship lithe and couth.

He yields his mind to appease a primal urge;
Love sees her chance and closes in with rapturous surge.
She lunges and thrusts to capture her helpless feed –
Just another fool consumed by his own lovesick need.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Human Pincushion

Through a series of unfortunate accidents I dropped a box of pins and needles in a dimly lit area of my carpeted living room. Lizzy witnessed the whole thing and without moving to help me pick any of the pins up, knowingly said, “Dad’s going to step on one of those pins”.

“No”, I corrected as I desperately crawled around on my hands and knees, “we’re going to pick them all up. No one is going to step on a pin! Now please help me!”

I think she reluctantly picked up ONE pin, but upon doing so, shrieked in pain as if she had been stabbed with a harpoon and gave up.  She told me she was just a kid and it was dangerous for kids to pick up pins. Besides, she pointed out, she wasn’t the one who dropped them.

Insolent child.

Still, even without her assistance I thought I had gathered up all the pins.

I was wrong…as tends to happen.

Sure enough, a few days after I drop the pins, I get a frantic, angry phone call from John. He is in agony. He has stepped on a needle and it’s inserted so far into his foot that only the eye of the needle is poking out.

I can hear Lizzy, the little traitor, in the background saying, “I told mom this would happen.”

I don’t know why I’m the first person John calls in such situations. First remove the needle and if you need medical assistance, go to an Emergency Room. Do not call me. I cannot help you.

But of course he is not phoning for help or advice. He, with his little sidekick, Lizzy, is phoning to place blame.

In a barely controlled voice he asks me if I know why he stepped on a pin.

“Because you don’t look where you’re going?” I answer helpfully.

“NO!” he screams abandoning all pretence of self-control. “YOU dropped pins on the carpet and didn’t pick them up!”

My cell vibrates at the intensity of his rage.

“Where are you getting your information?” I ask, as if I don’t know.

“LIZZY told me!!!”

“Lizzy is a child,” I say, “who are you going to believe, her or a grown woman?”

John cannot believe my lack of contrition and yells, “HER!”

“Does it really matter why at this point?” I ask. “Don’t you think you should remove the foreign object from your foot before worrying about who is responsible? Also, you have to be responsible for your own feet. Surely, you can’t blame me for where YOU decide to tread!”

In frustration he hangs up.

A few days later he has stepped on another one of these pins and I receive another one of his phone calls.

It occurs three more times in the proceeding weeks. Each time I am not home and each time he phones me to vent his frustration and demand that something be done. Short of ripping up the carpet, I don’t know what more can be done.

He doesn’t know either, but he does know that with every pin that punctures his foot, his resentment for me builds, as does his fear of entering the living room. His god, the TV, is in there, though, so I’m not too worried about it. It isn’t like he can avoid his place of worship.

A few more weeks of this and he tells me he can’t take it anymore. He does not think he can survive another pinning. And even though I have not admitted (and never will) to any culpability in the matter, he is still suspicious that the scatterbrained clumsiness I am notorious for is responsible for the pins. Because of this, he thinks it’s only fair I offer up some sort of restitution. Failing that, it would give him great satisfaction to see ME step on one of these pins and collapse to the ground writhing in pain, develop an infection and possibly die.

I tell him that is a terrible thing to wish on anyone, and as punishment, he's left me with no choice but to put The Curse of the Pin on him.

“You already DID!!!” he sputters.

I suggest to him that if it was me who kept stepping on pins, I’d start wearing slippers. Or I'd avoid the area where I suspected the pins were embedded.

For some weird reason, even though it fills him with dread, he cannot keep himself away from the vicinity of the pin carnage. This perverse fascination is in fact why he keeps stepping on the pins in the first place. Look and ye shall find.

In a shocking departure from his usual behavior, eventually he does listen to me and takes to wearing slippers. He also makes an effort to stay away from the area in question, but he simply cannot do it for long. Even so, for another week he is fine. No more pinnings. It seems he has managed to retrieve all the wayward pins with his foot.

“See?” I brighten, “something positive has come out of this. Now no one else will step on a pin because you’ve retrieved them all with your foot! You’re a super great humanitarian”.

He does not think I'm funny, and my words of praise do nothing to dissolve his simmering rage, which he’s been trying to contain since I put the Curse of the Pin on him. Although he openly scoffs at such things, he isn’t fooling me – not with his “controlled” rage or his disbelief in my abilities. Secretly, he isn’t so sure my curses aren’t real. 

I AM about to stick a pin in your voodoo doll. Brace yourself.
~ Lala

And sure enough, a few mornings later he wakes up with a stabbing ache in his back. This is nothing new, mind you, and as a rule I more or less ignore his physical complaints. He worries and complains about back pain incessantly because when he was 19 he got into a bad car accident and fractured his spine. His doctors at the time warned that as he got older he may start to experience chronic lumbar pain and other associated symptoms.

As a result, John is constantly on high alert to ANY discomfort in his back no matter how minor or imagined. This time, however, he says it is “different” and excruciating enough that he can’t go to work.

For the rest of the day, he slobs out on the couch moaning about how he needs to go to the doctor and get some painkillers, but he never makes a move to actually do this.

It is not until later in the night at maybe 9 or 10 o’clock that I get another one of John’s by now customary phone calls while I’m out. From his pressured tone and rapid breathing I know immediately this has something to do with pins.

I am correct.

It seems John had reached around to scratch where his back hurt and in doing so pricked his finger on something sharp. There was blood. He nearly fainted when he realized what it was.

It was the tip of a pin.

You have no idea how disappointed I am that he never went to see that doctor about his “ailment”.

Every time I think of this whole pin situation I am thrown into a new fit of laughter. As a consequence, John has stopped speaking to me.  He is beside himself with  anger that I’m not taking it more seriously. He says with utter conviction that if he hadn’t felt the pin when he did, he probably would be dead right now.

Ignoring the fact he had wished "figurative" death on me only a few days ago, I laugh and say, “Don’t be absurd. You can’t die from being stabbed in the back with a pin. A knife, sure, but a pin? I don’t think so, there Pincushion”.

I’ve now taken to calling him Pincushion.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Deafening Silence

There were 12 children in total, some step-siblings, some half and some full — all mashed together like misfit puzzle pieces forced into a distorted family portrait.

Papa Phil did not father all twelve, but they all had at some point been under his care. The women who gave birth to these children, two of whom were once Papa Phil's wives, had all been lost to one of booze, madness or death.

Papa Phil knew he could not raise a brood of motherless kids by himself, so he took yet another wife, Muriel, when the youngest of the dozen was still in diapers. Muriel herself could not get pregnant, but desperately yearned for a baby and was thus immediately smitten with the youngest of the children.

The older kids, none of them Papa Phil's biological offspring, were more or less ignored by Muriel and terrorized by Phil. But it was a silent terror. Silence like this is loud and oppressive — it defies logic and the laws of nature. The unsaid things are the scariest things — the things no one wants to acknowledge.

The silence was therefore free to slip in between the ketchup sandwiches made with stale bread, through the soiled sheets, and around the creaking floorboards late at night when children should be soundly sleeping. They should not be wide awake concentrating with every cell of their being on some bedroom wall shadow until the silent thing is done.

Silence becomes an odd comfort when it accompanies everything one does. It is like a prison guard the prisoner comes to rely on, even after the bars have been left unlocked and the guard eliminated.

Maryanne, a middle-aged adult now, resented the guarded silence. Her siblings, by comparison, went on seemingly unscathed with a regimented existence. Maryanne could not understand their refusal to talk about what had happened to them because it consumed her. She could barely handle it, the thought of Papa Phil having gotten away with his crimes, aided and abetted by muteness. 

There did, however, come a day when she could no longer tolerate the dead air and spoke up. The power of confession, what really should have only been the therapeutic passing of an honest moment, created a dystopia Maryanne could not have anticipated. Who would have thought that with the mere utterance of a few words that so much human misery would scream forth from the silence like a million unleashed demons.

There would be suicide, addiction and homicidal rage. There would be financial ruin, prison, insanity, agony and death. All their carefully patched together lies, their precariously assembled lives, decimated by truth.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Frozen Watch

Theresa's watch is frozen at 6 o'clock. It has been stubbornly keeping the same hour for 40 years. When asked why she holds onto the timepiece, Theresa says, "Why, it's a good watch! It still keeps the time."

Then she smiles and starts humming. No one is sure of the tune. Her eyes glaze over and just like that Theresa is gone, lost in the ancient maze of her disconnected memory.

The Meadows staff and occasional visitor do not pay Theresa much heed. She is a harmless, crazy old woman now, her mind scrambled after years of powerful psychotropic drugs coursing through her veins and electroshock therapy zip-zapping through her brain. Being tied to a bed against her will one too many times, and being forced into straight jackets when a kind but firm hand would have done, in addition to numerous stints in isolation, further contributed to the loss of her sanity.

"Be careful about spending too much time with those head doctors," she likes to whisper during rare lucid moments. "They're looking for crazy and they ALWAYS find crazy."  She sputters and laughs until the light of cognition goes out and drool escapes from the corner of her mouth.

Time froze for Theresa with the ring of a doorbell. It was her neighbor at the front entrance of her house. He was cradling in his arms what seemed to be a limp, bloody animal – road kill, maybe a dog. Theresa could not tell. There was so much blood.

She does not know what happened after that. It is as if someone came along and hit the eject button right before the climactic scene of a suspenseful movie. The psychiatrists call it "psychogenic amnesia", but Theresa doesn't understand their psychobabble. She pretends to listen intently, if her sedatives don't make it too difficult to concentrate, but in truth she is wondering about her son, Billy.

She sneaks a peek at her watch: Oh dear, it's dinnertime. Billy is officially late. He should have been home at least 15 minutes ago, so he'd have time to wash up before supper. Billy's father will not be pleased.

Theresa looks up at Dr. Smith, "I'm terribly sorry sir, but I must go. My son is waiting for me, and I still have to get the pot roast out of the oven.”

She attempts to get up to leave, but in her chemical restraints she finds her legs don't work like they once did . She doesn’t struggle or fight to stand. Her spirit was effectively dulled long ago. Instead, she relaxes back into her chair and calmly folds her hands into her lap, but not before checking her watch again. 

She sighs, "What could be keeping Billy?"

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Beautiful People

Brittany needed another $100 for the Louis Vuitton handbag she had to have. Every credit card was over its limit and she had exhausted her other usual avenues for borrowed money, except Lilith, her sister.

Lilith had a fat savings account, but despised what she referred to as "the beautiful people".  She wouldn't allow anyone to use a dime of her money, not even a dime that earned interest, towards beauty propaganda. And as far as Lilith was concerned, Louis Vuitton was propaganda.

The worms will live in every host. It's hard to pick which one they eat the most
The Beautiful People (source).
Brittany did not understand Lilith. Lilith was beautiful, despite the thick-rimmed glasses that overwhelmed her otherwise lovely features, or the matted hair she never brushed, or her refusal to wear deodorant, apply cosmetics, or wear figure-flatting clothing that emphasized her lithe frame rather than hide it under bulky cable knit.

Perhaps Brittany wasn’t as smart as her sister, but it seemed to her Lilith's contempt for beautiful people was like a wealthy person's contempt for wealth. Don't lecture the poor money can't buy you happiness if you've never been starving, and don't tell the ugly beauty can't bring you popularity if you've never been marginalized by ugliness.

What cruel twist of fate, thought Brittany, was this? She should have Lilith's beauty. She should be the one with all the buckets and barrels of disposable income. She should possess Lilith's ingenuity and shrewd business sense. It was all wasted on Lilith! Oh the things Brittany would do if she was Lilith!

"Of course you don't understand anything! And you could never be me," Lilith suddenly shot out, interrupting Brittany's bitter ruminations. It was as if Lilith could read her mind.

"You're nothing but a slave," Lilith continued, "who doesn't know the strength of her weakness. You support a master and don't realize you're doing it...with your expensive fashion you can’t afford."

Brittany felt mildly insulted even though she had no idea what Lilith was talking about or if she should be insulted. Lilith's insinuations and subtleties were always so confusing and exhausting to Brittany. Normally at times like this she would simply tune her sister out or walk away, but she really, really wanted that hand bag. Brittany would grovel, if necessary.

Lilith picked up on Brittany's desperation and in a rare act of seeming compromise offered, "I'll tell you what, if you pick all the blackberries in my yard and do the canning, I'll give you the money for your meaningless...trinket."

“That sounds like a lot of work," Brittany complained, "and I don't know how to make jam!"

"That’s fine," Lilith replied as she thrust a recycled ice-cream bucket towards Brittany. "I'll oversee everything you do. If you want the purse bad enough, you’ll do what I say — you’ll do the work."

Brittany hesitated — some part of her feeling like she was making a pact with the devil, but that was silly. 

Brittany took the bucket.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Ashes of Alfred

Alfred was dead, but his ashes still carried the blame for present day miseries. There was much speculation regarding the madness of Alfred. Some said he was schizophrenic and manic-depressive, while others argued he was simply a fucked up alcoholic. Most everyone agreed, however, that at the root of Alfred's problem was an inheritable genetic code that could be passed along to those who came after him like a hot potato nobody wanted to be left holding when the music stopped.

Jean knew firsthand the far-reaching impact of Alfred's insanity. She, like all his descendants, was scrutinized for even the slightest hint of mental instability. Jean, who considered herself a time traveler of sorts -- an amateur family historian -- could not accept the gossip. She was obsessed with uncovering the truth about her great-great-grandfather.

It was impossible to reconcile the handsome man in the black and white photo with the madman Alfred was said to have been. He had a James Dean smile and a flirtatious tilt to his jaw that gave him an aura of charisma. Indeed, it was rumored he could exude such magnetism that people became light-headed just from being near him. This was the man with whom Jean's great-great-grandmother, Marla, had fallen blindly in love.

But Alfred had a dark side.

He was prone to severe melancholy, paranoid delusions and hallucinations. He used moonshine to silence the chatter inside his head, but it only made things worse, especially for his wife and children, who were terrorized by his psychotic rages.

The situation grew so desperate that one night Marla slit her wrists, attempting to divert Alfred's attention from their baby girl, as he tried to drown her in a barrel of rainwater. He was convinced the infant was demonically possessed. Both Marla and the baby died on that black, bloody night, and Alfred was locked away in an insane asylum until he took his own life. The remaining children were orphaned off to relatives and their lives forever tainted by their father's sins.

Jean had to discover for herself if Alfred's madness was truly inborn. She was thus compelled to travel back in time to the Saskatchewan farm where Alfred was raised. There, she found Ruby, 101 years old, who was in possession of a child-sized coffin meant for Alfred when he was eight. Jean looked at the coffin, as if it was a time machine, and listened to Ruby describe how Alfred was expected to die of rheumatic fever, but miraculously survived.

"But he turned strange after that," Ruby confided in a low, gravelly voice, "always talking to himself and banging his head."

Jean, who had been leaning in as she listened to Ruby talk, sat back in her chair now, thinking of Alfred and his fried brain. She thought of how his "recovery" from near death brought him out of one hell that included child labour on a struggling farm and physical abuse from a particularly sadistic father into a new kind of hell. This new hell consisted of long stints in various mental institutions starting from the age of 12 and continuing off and on for the remainder of his life. 

He was  subjected to every kind of "treatment" and shamed with every kind of stigma. He was plagued with all-consuming rage, crippled by overwhelming guilt, tormented with derogatory voices in his head, and debilitated by delusions that were impossible to differentiate from "reality". In the end, this cauldron of confusion was what ultimately killed not only him but his wife and infant daughter.

He was not born mad, after all, Jean thought with bittersweet realization. The world made him that way through virus, abuse and circumstance. His ashes were no more to blame than the dying embers of a previously out of control fire ignited by human folly and stoked by hatred and fear.

And it was then that Jean decided Alfred and his dubious legacy could finally be put to rest. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Ruling Celebrity Class

People are transfixed by beauty, wealth and celebrity,
They need a handsome devil to worship when God isn’t free.
Like goslings who imprint on the first big life force they see,
They’re easily led with no leash or worry they’ll flee.

They believe this is their Providence, their leader,
A giant personality, a glitter-filled bottle-feeder.
An attractive fowl without substance and a painted-on wing,
A kite that defies gravity, a ruse, a replica thing.

But kites don’t defy the law of gravity and replica birds can’t fly,
Eventually kites retreat from the sun, descend and fall from the sky.
And model objects that take flight suspended from a wire,
Are nothing more than the manipulations of a liar.

This world where mortals are elevated as gods is a world of illusion,
Where imprinted masses follow, pulled by need and misled by delusion.
Where tricksters guide, driven by every lust and every greed,
Smirking stewards who cash in as others starve, suffer and bleed.

They neither care nor appreciate the weight of their charge,
Egos that concern themselves with material splendor and living large.
Exploiters of a basic desire for purpose and connection,
Parasites of Spirit whose true intent avoids detection.

But how can they ascend when they’re mannequins with unmovable parts?
Fixed expressions and mechanical hearts?
Embalmed in silicone and plastic, they never look old,
They attend morticians of plasty and gorge on bricks of gold.

It’s where “superficial and shallow” are physical traits of the perfect T&A,
Where respectful language is considered crass and passé.
A bizarro place where up is down and down is “whaddup”,
And demons masquerading as saviors slurp from a footed-cup.

Where eloquence of speech and precision of wit is considered a bore,
And intelligent women assume the disguise of a whore.
Where sociopaths practice the size of their smile in a mirror of lies,
And heavy-breathing psychopaths plot for the day everyone dies.

Where sophisticated psychiatrists consult horoscopes for direction,
And a dumb reality TV billionaire wins a presidential election.
Where a white-veneered dentist named Walter is a lion slayer,
And a sitcom star who drugs and rapes women is a good ol’ player.

Where Harvard graduates give dissertations on the Real Housewives of whatever,
And if you’re rich, philandering is as an honorable endeavor.
Where if you’re a beloved Sinatra-imitator it’s fine to body shame,
And the Wizard of Oz is a celebrity doctor with a fraudulent claim.

They peddle heaven for a price and will tell you The Secret for a fee,
Pretenders who adapt so wholly to their role they believe it religiously.
It’s where from mega cathedrals the worst of men advise and preach,
A place where anti-vaccine Playmates without a clue babble and teach.

They model despicable behavior and say don’t worry about hell,
They dangle an American dream and the herd drools at the ring of their bell.
Viewers tune in to watch politicians perform like jesters on late night,
And a significant number don’t understand the difference between wrong and right.

It’s a controlled narrative that must be hand-fed to be believed,
Where few consider not all is as it’s given or as it’s perceived.
But if the devil can invade the churches, seduce the chosen and make angels fall,
Then Virtue too can infiltrate the enemy’s den and from there answer its call.

Watch now as weapons of cultural destruction become tools of transformation,
Where tragedy compels a trainwreck actress to address a gun-toting nation.
Where a slayed lion named Cecil is carved into a global symbol of action,
And novel ideas that can change the state of the world gain traction.

Watch as a lying Pinocchio converts from what is wooden and hollow,
Into a real boy with a beating heart and a virtuous command to follow.
Watch as mannequins begin to move of their own volition,
And psychopaths master the urges of their condition.

Watch as the practised smile of a sociopath reaches his eyes,
And prostitutes reveal the truth and discard their disguise.
Watch as replicas become what they replicate and break from their tether,
And diverse birds of every feather unite and finally flock together.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Fasting Evangelist Promises a Gluttonous Paradise

I went to see a somewhat renowned evangelist named Emmanuel Twagirimana, who claims to have died in the shrapnel cross-fires of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide before miraculously being resurrected. According to him (unverified by anyone else), he was dead for 7 days, and as maggots began to decompose his wounded body here on earth, his soul went to heaven where he met Jesus and was shown around, including a little jaunt through hell. 

Emmanuel was then told it wasn't his time yet and he had to return to his decrepit, festering body so he could travel the world and spread the message that heaven is real but so too, unfortunately, is hell (as if no one in a church had ever heard this story before). He has since written a book, produced a DVD and traveled to 154 countries. He has ministered to the likes of Nelson Mandela and the Queen of England.

Suspicious. I know.

Everyone else at the rather humble church I sometimes attended could not believe their good fortune and great blessing that out of all the places in the world he could have chosen, Emmanuel had chosen them to minister his message from the great beyond.

They must be special and what does the collective ego like more than feeling “special”? Nothing.

Now, up until this point, for perhaps the preceding year, I had been more open to the idea of organized religion and a spiritual realm than I had ever been in my life (mainly because of a series of bizarre personal experiences I am perpetually trying to make sense of and because I have an aversion to psychiatrists). So I wasn’t completely closed off to hearing what Emmanuel had to say.


I still had the left side of my brain and I could still think. It would seem the blinders in logic I would have to don in order to accept what Emmanuel claimed as truth were beyond my mental capacity. Apparently I was not as adept at suspending disbelief (even in spite of my aforementioned bizarre personal experiences) as those around me.

And it isn’t necessarily because I don’t believe it’s possible Emmanuel really did have a hallucinatory out-of-body experience. But in my mind, after facts and raw data, interpretation is everything and Emmanuel’s interpretations of his delirious state are preposterous, even in the context of religiosity. More preposterous is how seemingly lucid people who haven’t themselves undergone a similar psychosis, mystical experience or paranormal encounter can so easily believe such fantastical stories riddled with inconsistencies, fallacies and contradictions, ESPECIALLY when the person peddling these stories is profiting from them.

In their greed, these false teachers will exploit you with tales they have concocted. The longstanding verdict against them remains in force, and their destruction does not sleep ~ 2 Peter 2:3

Emmanuel’s harrowing tale sounded less like the rantings of a madman, religious fanatic or someone filled with the Holy Spirit, and more like the flamboyant fabrications of a slick salesman, although outside his avid, religiously shackled audience, I’m not sure how “slick” anyone else would find his claims. In other words, I call bullshit.

For example, Emmanuel, a man of enormous girth, whose message was heavily laden with references to massive amounts of food and being constantly fed in the Promised Land, said that after Heaven repatriated him back to earth with a redundant message everyone has heard before, he was informed he would immediately be able to recite by rote the entire Bible without even having read it in the first place.

He furthermore would be able to repeat and interpret specific passages on command in any language without a translator, a degree in theology, Rosetta Stone, the aid of Leapfrog Phonic Fridge Magnets or anything. The only thing he had to do was eat this big ass piece of Moses chocolate Jesus gave him while the two of them were hanging out in paradise and BOOM! Instantaneous idiot savant.

So excuse me when I was a little perplexed that not only did he have to read directly from the same Bible he claimed had been magically downloaded to his brain via a stone-tablet-sized chocolate bar, but he also had to have his lovely, long-suffering wife translate everything he screamed from the pulpit because he couldn’t speak English even though he claims (lies) he can preach in ANY language.

English is a language.

But magic treats, zealous screaming, bald-faced lying, and the English language aside, everyone there was waiting to hear the nitty-gritty details of heaven and hell, such as what kind of cheeses would we eat in the celestial kingdom, would lactose-tolerance and a digestive system even be necessary, and just how big and ornate would our literal Christ-appointed mansions be?   But most curious, how exactly would the unsaved sinners be forever tortured and could we, the saved ones, watch with eternal voyeuristic glee? It was why the church was the fullest I had ever seen it. So when Emmanuel spent the first hour raving about how if you don't tithe and fast you won't get into heaven and the next two hours on the evils of divorce, a boring reality for a good many of us, it was again a little perplexing. 

The teaching that a person should stay in a marriage at all costs because “God said so” is a dangerous one for any spiritually confused, psychologically vulnerable person, especially a woman who is trapped in a situation where she is being slowly blood-letted of her magnificence and weakened to the point of death. The faulty beliefs instilled by the kind of punitive dogma Emmanuel and people like him hawk interfere with the “dying” woman’s survival instinct and natural right to fight off the parasitic scavengers who take advantage of her confusion.

They (the faulty beliefs) tell her to lie there and take it, that the whole purpose of her being is to nourish the sadistic gluttony of others or to be the host to a mass of unthinking, urge-driven leeches who lack the fortitude to take care of their own needs. And if that doesn’t work, if she doesn’t buy into the idea that her sole purpose for existing is to act as nothing more than a material function for someone else, they manipulate her into believing that even if she did want to strive for a higher purpose or simply be a self-sufficient, independent human being with her own thoughts, she doesn’t have the strength to stand up, shrug off her parasites and thrive on her own anyway.

This of course isn’t true. She might be weakened, but she’s still a magnificent creature. She merely isn’t aware of her magnificence because it’s extremely difficult to self-realize amidst the noise and suffocation of a world in the process of killing you. 

But sometimes a person can surprise herself, and everyone else who underestimated her, and break free from that which enslaves her, whether it’s an oppressive belief system, a terrible marriage, a self-medicating addiction, or some worse hell like the chaos of her own mind.

In the blinding light of such an escape, however, there will be those who, depending on their particular bent, will attribute her initial disorientation with a mental illness, a medical condition or demonic possession. They will say she isn’t “herself” and do everything to rope her back in and return the pieces of her to the cage she has just escaped before she ever has a chance to find her bearings and put herself back together on her own.

They will watch her more closely now and if religion isn’t an effective intellectual straightjacket, they will use pop psychology, psychobabble, scientism and pharmaceuticals to restrain her renegade spirit – all vying for control of her, not because they are interested in anything she has to offer, but because they want to shut her down, put her in quarantine where her “insanity” won’t bother anyone, where they don’t have to watch her so closely, and where they won’t have to think about her very much at all, until it’s time to get rid of the body, that is.

Still, even if she does manage to liberate herself without recapture, it can be lonely skies with storms yet to be weathered and a willpower yet to be mastered. She might begin to feel the tug of the cage and doubt her decision to fly away, the initial feeling of manic exhilaration faded, replaced by the cold realities of her struggle. But when she realizes that pain and suffering are predicaments to work through and not avoid, like the thorny bramble before a clearance of meadow and fresh burbling brooks, she perseveres.

She perseveres even though it hurts and even though there is absolutely no guarantee things will work out. She could fly into a mountain just as she’s getting comfortable with the flight, her wings could stop working for no obvious reason, she could get caught up in the propeller of a plane, or have some version of God suddenly appear in the clouds after a lifetime of total absence and cause her heart to stop mid-air before her feet ever reach the ground. And if external forces don’t get her, she could grow lackadaisical with her internal vigil and the demons she manages inside her head could take over and consume her entirely.

It would be tempting in such circumstances to abandon the storm and safely follow evangelists like Emmanuel Twagirimana with their promises of earthly delights in heaven, or prosperity ministries with their promise of heavenly delights on earth. 

Anyone, so goes the claim, can reach these idealized states of foolish euphoria if only one ignores intuition and surrenders her will to the guardians of absurdity and their deceivingly welcoming herds who claim to have the “absolute truth” which is ridiculous. Truth of this sort is relative to perspective. You say the dress is white and gold.I say it’s cornflower blue and brown. Consensus reality says it’s black and blue. I don’t know what God says.

In any event, whatever way you spin it, it’s ALL absurd.

So why should one mob’s explanation of the absurdity be more trustworthy than the explanation that appeals to any single individual? Why would anyone, for instance, replace the voice in her own head with that of Emmanuel’s claiming that the need to get out of a soul-destroying, possibly abusive marriage is driven not by heaven but by hell, and that to leave such a situation is to turn against Christ and probably end up in an afterlife with Satan’s minions as sweaty work slaves delivering draught beer to the pleasantly cooled saints in paradise (which is one of his weirdo, food-obsessed claims). 

Thank you but I think I’ll take my chances with the minions and get out of the shitty marriage in this life. Bring on the absurdity.

And Emmanuel does just that with one absurdity after another, which you're free to believe or not. You can choose, for example, to believe that if you do make it to nirvana with the aid of Emmanuel’s book and DVD, which you can buy online or in the lobby of any church he is paid to preach at (donations are a tax write-off), you will be greeted by “angelic cooks” who will happily serve you. They will literally pick the best fruit from an abundance of fruit trees that line the jewel-crusted, golden streets of heaven “like you’ve never seen on earth” and then prepare enormous fruit salads again “like you’ve never seen on earth” under their diamond-adorned wings, which frankly sounds disgusting and unappetizing. Sorry, but you can keep your angel pit hair salad. Gross.

In addition to his preoccupation with preventing divorce regardless of domestic violence or suicidal unhappiness, Emmanuel is excessively concerned with all the food you can eat in God’s kingdom, which he says “is not a kingdom of hunger”. And no, he was not speaking figuratively or metaphorically during any of this. He saw and greedily narrowed in on all the overloaded plates himself while he was in heaven and asked his guide (which you will remember is the actual Jesus in the flesh), “What’s with all the food?”

Jesus replied that those plates were set in preparation for the “prayer warriors”. The more these prayer warriors prayed and fasted while alive on earth, the more their plates piled up with delicious foods in anticipation of their eventual death and heavenly ascension. I guess Emmanuel must be exempt from the fasting part, as inferred by his monumental size, and concentrates purely on the praying part, (which is confusingly hypocritical since he spent such an inordinate amount of time warning the rest of us if we didn't fast regularly we would be doomed to hell).

No one in the church put up their hand to ask the obvious question, “Why would we have to eat so much in heaven, or at all, when we’re disembodied souls?” It seems like it should be wholly unnecessary. Personally, I’m sick of always having to feed and dress myself now, not to mention all the other tedious things one has to do in order to survive in the world. Once I’m dead, I’d like to forget about all the annoying chores of physical existence. If you want to sell me heaven, give me either pure ecstatic sensation or blissful oblivion. I don’t want to have to fucking eat.

I also do not want to feign respect for a charlatan, so after the 3-hour mark, any semblance of politeness that existed within me had completely vanished and without any apologies, I told my companion, who seemed to be enthralled by the whole thing, that I was leaving. She was surprised and asked if I would be coming back the next evening, as Emmanuel would be preaching for the proceeding three nights. I restrained all sarcastic urges and replied simply, "No. No, I will not".